The root meaning of wildness is being wilful or uncontrollable. It is an expression of self-will beyond oppression, rather like nature unfolds in its own myriad of ways, unconfined and ultimately unpredictable. Life is inherently wild. And yet in our paradoxical quest for simultaneous security and freedom, we have sought both to control and wall out this wildness – this ‘sea of troubles’. Our rational abstraction of reality defines, boxes-up, and confines within an unnatural order of its own making. As part of our civilising process we grasp for predictability by de-contextualising and domesticating life. We remove the essence of wildness from life in order to tame it. Yet we overlook the insight this wildness brings and in so doing confine our true, naturally creative and empathic selves. Within the apparent chaos of wildness is a profound beauty and coherence, which is far removed from the anarchistic free-for-all that some of us fearfully imagine – a co-creative evolutionary dance of vibrant diversity.
It is our quest for a completely definable and thereby static order, tamed, tied-down and ultimately non-alive, which seeks to banish wildness. Yet it is within and through wildness that natural truth metamorphoses into an ever-folding and unfolding deeper manifestation. This wildness we should celebrate not denigrate. It should be danced with, not cut up into bits or caged.
‘What is wild cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or copied. It is.’ Jay Griffiths
It’s true that our rationalistic, materialistic scientific paradigm with its defining atomism and rigid framing has brought great strides in technological advancement – but who knows how much more (it need not be less!) could have been possible if we had stayed truthful to nature? By removing the essence of wildness from our reality we dislocate ourselves from nature, and an anxious sense of separation and dis-ease ensues. There is so much we can learn from nature’s wildness if we allow our quest for understanding to be unrestricted by abstract rationality. We need at long last to allow the wildness back into our way of understanding, because rationality devoid of wildness is crudely simplistic and non-sense-making – a refuge for ignorance and needless complication and conflict – neither simplifying nor sensible.
‘In the wild waters of the world, the fish does not go under. It is in its element. Amidst the unpredictable it swims in grace’. Catherine Keller
To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here
Companies that mimic living systems have been gaining market share over more traditionally managed firms, which generally model themselves on mechanical systems.
Firms that mimic living systems have an existential awareness that they are living communities of people, committed to serving other people, and that they all depend on Nature for their sustenance. This fundamental recognition creates spontaneous demands within the firm to live harmoniously and respectfully with the larger living systems on which we all depend (biosphere, society, markets).
SoL (a leading business management organisation that explores the connection between organisational learning precepts and business success) published ‘Profit for Life’ a few years back by Jay Bragdon. Since this publication, SoL has been researching and tracking how certain organisations (ones that mimic living systems) perform against other more traditional organisations (mechanistic, short-term profit maximising, capital-centric organisations). In essence, this research explores the business paradigm of machine versus living, or as I refer to it in The Nature of Business (here for North American version ) mechanistic firms of the past versus organic firms of the future.
Mechanistic, reductionist firms of the past -> Organic, emergent firms of the future
Northfield Information Services (a global consultancy advising many of the largest banks and asset managers) performed an in-depth analysis to assess these ‘living’ firms that mimic nature with the more traditional mechanistically-focused firms. This resulted in the Global Living Asset Management Performance (LAMP) Index®. For more detail on this please see ‘Companies that Mimic Life’ where the market returns of these organisations are researched and tabulated.
The conclusion drawn from the detailed research is that businesses that model based on living systems (businesses inspired by nature) gain market share and out-perform those that model on mechanistic systems. Leading organisations, it would seem, are adapting to the social and environmental damage caused by traditional business approaches.
So why aren’t all organisations becoming ‘inspired by nature’ why is it still only for the leading pioneers?
The barrier to adaptation is inertia. For over five centuries our prevalent approach to business (likewise for science and society) is rooted in empirical thought which flowered during the Enlightenment, yet inhibiting our evolution to further ‘enlightenment’. As SoL report:
‘Today, most leaders in business and finance – indeed most business schools – are so captivated by empiricism and its material successes that few dare to question its linear thinking assumptions.’
As Peter Drucker once insightfully said
‘in times of great turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil itself but facing it with yesterday’s logic’
Hence the prevailing business paradigm has sown the seeds of its own demise. The good news is many in business are ‘seeing the light’ and challenging yesterday’s logic. For instance, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said recently:
‘Too many people think in terms of trade-offs that if you do something which is good for you, then it must be bad for someone else.
That’s not right and it comes from old thinking about the way the world works and what business is for: Milton Friedman’s optimisation of short-term profits.
We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.’
So what is the new model? A business inspired by & in harmony with nature. This is what is explored in ‘The Nature of Business’.
The attributes that are highlighted in the LAMP research of ‘companies that mimic life’ as out-performers in their respective markets strongly resonate with the firm of the future characteristics put forward in ‘The Nature of Business’:
- T hey are highly networked to facilitate feedback and information exchanges within the firm and without. Many of these networks are informal, self-organizing consortia of employees, suppliers, and customers. When you layer these networks over one another and the firm’s chain of command, you get a structure that looks much like a double helix.
- T hey manage by means (MBM), understanding that people and relationships are the primary means by which they build network capacity and create value. They strengthen and empower employees by practicing servant leadership. They also give employees decision-making authority in their areas of competence and hold them accountable for results.
- T hey optimize their use of physical resources by “closing the loop” so the waste of one process becomes food for another. In doing so, they aim for factor efficiencies by producing more value for customers with less input of energy and materials.
- T hey are exceptionally open in the ways they share information with employees and in their desire for stakeholder feedback. They know such openness builds trust, learning capacity and adaptability.
- T hey nurture the larger living systems of which they are a part (Nature, society, markets) because they understand the inherent connection of all life.
Now we know the problems with the old paradigm and we know what the new paradigm looks and feels like, the only challenge left is (admittedly quite a sizeable challenge) transforming old thinkers and doers from yesterday’s logic into prototyping for the future – inspired by nature. For that we need to transform business education (still inherently empirical and mechanistic), business leaders (the majority still short-termist and reductionist), business managers and employees (fortunately Gen Y seem more clued up about the transforming landscape but the reality is that the majority are still inured by the prevailing paradigm, having been educated that way). Hence, the vital importance of education – business education at a leadership, management and employee level – that is creative and forward-thinking, pushing boundaries and prototyping the future while challenging yesterday’s logic (not simply regurgitating past dogma). That is the challenge and also an immense opportunity for those in positions of influence within business education.
Fortunately, there are already good examples of business academia prototyping the future, for instance SoL mentioned above (associated with Harvard Business School & MIT) and Exeter University Business School’s One Planet MBA.
To explore ‘business inspired by nature’ further, join the Face Book community here
Yesterday’s logic of materialism and egotism has stripped bare our inner and outer worlds, creating wastelands in desperate need of restorative regeneration.
Our world and humanity require emancipation from the enslaving grip of this egotism and materialism.
Through how we interrelate – our attitude – we can help break-free of negative patterns and mind-sets that drain our life energy. In so doing, we allow energy to flow into new patterns, new ways of relating and operating.
At its most fundamental, this is an act of love where we re-awakened to the sacred wonder of life beyond the confines of self-limiting logic.
‘Through the simple recognition of life’s nature as we go about our ordinary lives, we open ourselves and the world around us to dimensions within life that have been veiled from us by all the layers of projections, patterns of denial… Within our consciousness the inner and outer, the visible and the unseen worlds, can come together and speak to each other and our split-apart world can become whole again.’ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
It is our consciousness that allows a commingling of these primal and potent energies within us. We are midwives to these new ways of relating so essential to life beyond the illusion of separation and fear.
‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.’ Bob Marley
An attunement of our consciousness within the deeper consciousness of Nature through every evolving moment is our birth-right. This is our inherent capacity as humans, where we re-cognise the wisdom of Nature. It is nothing other than the present moment in our midst that provides the opportunity for this sacred awakening whereupon we birth (or resurrect) a new dawn. Problems, anxieties and fears fade like mist with the morning sun as we free ourselves from self-imposed restrictions formed by the control-based logic of our collective mind-set.
Life’s divine nature is the simple presence of each unfolding, participatory moment, unadulterated by our grasping for conclusions, categories, facts and figures. The primal magic of Nature is here-and-now; here is where the answers lie.
‘Look deep into Nature and you will find the answers’ Albert Einstein
‘We are here to remember the sacred nature of life… Divine presence is not an isolated occurrence, not a single sighting to be revered… but an outpouring of love that is a constant stream coming into life… It needs to be embodied and fully lived.’ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Our science is helping us understand the sentience of every cell, and yet still we collectively struggle to perceive the intense beauty of life beyond the veil of our egotism and materialism.
It is our own egos that cast us out from the inherent wisdom of Nature by creating a sense of separation and isolation in us that then tyrannises over us in the form of fear, anxiety, competitiveness, envy, control and resentment. In encapsulating ourselves in our own ‘comfortably numb’ ego-consciousness we sever ourselves from wisdom and corrupt our attitude by attempting to enslave and control the wild, unpredictability of reality. Enter the social, economic and ecological mess in our midst.
Now is the time to re-sacralise the flowing, connective, enchanting magic of each evolving moment.
‘He who is harmony with Nature hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking.’ Confucius
By re-membering our true Nature once again, we re-open the gates of grace and allow love to flow through all we be and do. This is our evolutionary path, leaving behind the distracting and ultimately fruitless side-shows of egotism and materialism. This alone will rob the illusion of its corrupting power at source. Then our true meaning and purpose will become clear as day.
To explore this ‘new logic’ further and find out more about upcoming talks and events, join the Face Book community here
Hot of the Press: Giles Hutchins new book The Illusion of Separation is due out in a few weeks.
‘With clarity and insight Giles Hutchins analyses the roots of our present collective mindset of separation, and yet shows how science and spirituality point to a deeper, inclusive consciousness. Here are signposts for a future that is vitally needed in the present moment, if we dare to cross the threshold and awaken to a direct experience of a world alive with love.’ – Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, PhD, Sufi teacher and author, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth
Let’s start with some definitions. What does the word sacred mean and what does the word business mean?
The word sacred derives from the Old French word ‘sacrer’ which originates from the Latin ‘sacer’ meaning dedicated, holy or reverence. Reverence means deep respect, deep admiration or deep affection – to love, venerate, cherish and respect.
St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace takes sacred to mean the reverence for life.
The word business comes from the Old English ‘bissinesse’ which means diligence and also a state of being busy. Also related is commerce, which originates from the Latin ‘commercium’ – com (collective) and merx (merchandise), the exchange of goods, services, intellect or social intercourse. Also related is profit, which originates from the Latin ‘profectus’ which means to make progress and ‘proficere’ which means to advance.
Capitalism is a particular economic and political approach which relies upon private ownership, capital accumulation and wage labour for profit and return on investment. It is now the dominant business paradigm in the West. Yet it is not what business is essentially about even though this prevalent logic might influence daily exchanges and interrelations whether in the West or beyond.
Capitalism is only a particular manifestation of the way business may be conducted. In fact, some may view it as a corruption of business, which undermines economic and social resilience. Its ideology spawns from an inherent corruption sown deep within the mind-set of modernity; a control-based abstract rationalism that defines ‘things’ as separate from their lived-in context with relationships as nothing more than self-maximising power-plays, where one ‘thing’ benefits only at the expense of the other. It is what the anthropologist and cyberneticist Gregory Bateson insightfully understood as the ‘original corruption’ which pits us against Nature in an evolutionary cul-de-sac of selfish ascendance.
The renowned business adviser Peter Drucker once famously said,
‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil, but in facing it with yesterday’s logic’.
Yesterday’s logic is one that sets humans apart from each other and from the rest of Nature viewed through the lens of competition, control, separateness and rationalism. It is this flawed logic that is at the heart of all our crises – world poverty, climate change, biodiversity loss, social inequality, wars, etc.
As CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman has said,
‘Too many people think in terms of trade-offs that if you do something which is good for you, then it must be bad for someone else. That’s not right and it comes from old thinking about the way the world works…We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.’
This new model is actually as ancient as it is fresh, it is the logic of Nature and can be found within and all around us if we so choose to perceive life beyond this devastating illusion of separation. To do this, we can re-awaken the sacred through our deeper understanding and attunement of Nature.
By its very nature, attending to life beyond the illusion of separation allows for a culture of reverence to form, as our inner-outer relation attunes with the love and wisdom flowing through every moment in our midst. This is to experience the sacredness of life, beyond the corrupting confines of capitalism, materialism and rationalism. This sacred understanding allows us to re-cognise the reciprocity within and throughout Nature. It is not competition that is the inherent grammar of life, it is interrelations, co-creativity and fluid reciprocity – this is the business of Nature.
‘We have been, and still are, in the grips of a flawed view of reality – a flawed paradigm, a flawed world view – and it pervades our culture putting us on biological collision course with collapse.’ – Former Chairman and CEO of Interface, Ray Anderson
In business, as in Nature, everything works through relationships. Trust is the soil from which healthy vibrant relationships take root. Relationships struggle to survive without trust. Trust requires mutual respect and understanding, an empathic reaching out beyond oneself that allows for reciprocation. And so we may see that the true nature of business is the business of Nature.
Deep respect for ourselves, each other and Nature is not some luxury add-on which can be dispensed with in times of economic downturn, it is foundational to who we truly are; without it we become rudderless, tossed this way and that by inauthentic egotistic whims – distracted, dis-eased and deluded.
It is through the simple (yet not always easy) shift in our way of attending to life that we may open up to the inherent wisdom of Nature. Here we find the ground of our being beyond the fragmenting dichotomies of yesterday’s logic. Business can offer a richly texture, diverse, often windswept and turbulent, yet co-creative, participatory ocean for spawning right thought, word and deed.
Business follows in the wake of what is demanded of it, otherwise we have busy-ness for busyness sake – not exactly Homo sapiens living up to our name.
Rather than our culture’s infatuation with stuff fuelled by our egotistic incessant grasping and wanting due to our sense of separation and severance from Nature, imagine the creative potential and entrepreneurial flair of business minds following in the wake of demand for the pursuit of true happiness, of love, of soulful heartfelt attunement within the wisdom of life. This is sacred business and it is at the heart of any new society.
To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here
View a short video clip on business inspired by nature here
View a presentation on ‘A Radical Review of Reality’ here
Much has been written about the fast-changing, transformative times we now live and work in and how this calls for new styles of leadership. Fritjof Capra, for instance, speaks of ‘emergent leadership’ which facilitates and fosters a culture of emergence in organisations and communities where continual change is embraced as the ‘new norm’. Palmer J Parker speaks of leaders being ‘midwives’ in facilitating the birthing of a new way of being and doing – a new consciousness no less – where diverse teams learn to deal with volatility with courage beyond the limitations of yesterday’s mind-set. Scilla Elworthy speaks of ‘awakened leadership’ as a way of envisioning and then pioneering future worlds beyond fear through developing what she calls ‘inner-intelligence for outer effectiveness’.
Emergent leadership, courageous leadership, awakened leadership and authentic leadership all share a common ground, which Zen Buddhist Master Nan Huai Chin sums up as seven places: awareness, stopping, calmness, stillness, peace, true thinking, attainment. It is through this inner-outer awareness that leaders can fully presence the evolving context they operate in and so nurture a collective learning environment. Accepting the present moment with an open heart, unlimited by pre-conceived notions and judgements – this is leading with courage (its Latin root ‘cor’ meaning heart) beyond fear, beyond control – and it’s not for the faint-hearted. It asks us to recognise the vitality of co-innovating new ways of operating beyond the confines of pre-defined outcomes: improvisation, conviviality, collaboration, creativity.
When it boils down to it, it’s all about relationships – how we physically and psychically relate with the world. In business and nature, everything works through flows of relationships. Trust is the soil from which healthy vibrant relationships take root. Relationships struggle to survive without trust. Trust requires mutual respect and understanding, an empathic reaching out beyond oneself that allows for reciprocation.
To be spontaneous while co-creating with others is to have innate trust in the relationships while letting go of control. In this way, trust allows an opening up to the present moment – a ‘presencing’ where upon we en-courage an aliveness to flow through all we are co-creating. Authenticity and spontaneity are dancing partners in transformation, nourished by trust and fuelled by courage.
We can encourage and accompany others through sharing our experiences. Likewise others can encourage and accompany us as new possibilities are encountered. In accompanying others in their learning quest into deeper awareness and understanding, we question and converse. After all, we Homo sapiens are primarily social creatures. This sharing of feelings and findings is immensely important and enriching for everyone involved. This is an inspirational and improvisational kind of facilitating. It encourages a meeting of minds through an appreciation both of what we have in common and of how our differences serve to complement our co-learning.
This inspirational facilitation provides safety and freedom – amidst the volatility and uncertainty – to question and share concerns, anxiety, motivations and experiential learning. A willingness to invite questioning of all kinds of assumptions and beliefs allows an opening up for new ways of thinking, listening and sharing. ‘Leaders’ in this mould are not leading ‘followers’; they are cultivating a co-creative environment where transformation happens. They may have special experience gained through personal pioneering experiences, and yet, with humility and courage, share this with others. In leading they are nurturing an open, receptive, loving environment for individuals and the community to tap into as they move forward in engaging fresh possibilities. In this way, preconditions, past-experiences, expectations and judgments can be aired and shared, allowed to either dissipate or transmute into learning. Likewise, leaders of this mettle are open to temporarily relinquishing, rotating, or taking a step back from, leadership when circumstances dictate.
Fear-based leading Courage-based leading
Leader-follower relation Co-creative relation
Motivated by power Motivated by love
Blame culture Compassionate culture
Command and control Improvisational
By its very nature, this kind of co-creative leading is neither hierarchical nor subservient nor adversarial. There is no ‘enemy’ to fight, mountain to conquer or power to manipulate; yet there is fear, trepidation, passion, courage, suffering, empathy, sharing, charisma and encouragement. It is less about orchestrating or conducting and more about facilitating the ability of others to attune themselves; energising and equipping oneself and others to make the right choices for the situation at hand. The result is more effective, resilient teams who are able to face increasing uncertainty with renewed inspiration, creativity and love.
The root word of ‘leadership’ is ‘leith’ which means to cross the threshold, to let go of old ways, mind-sets and logic in order to embrace the new. Leadership is, first and foremost, an attitude to life. These transformational times are demanding each and every one of us to become leaders in myriad ways: mothers and midwives, counsellors and CEOs, activists and administrators – the times we live ask us to ‘know thy self’ so as to reach beyond self-interest for the benefit of something greater. This is what authentic Homo sapiens do; it’s simply – yet not necessarily easily – a case of being true to our nature. As Zen teacher Susan Murphy Roshi puts it, systemic transformation ‘does not come about from a top-down approach. No living system has a boss. The boss is all of us, inextricably together, using the distributive wisdom of countless local actions occurring simultaneously…To be able to realize our real freedom within a sober, creative, playful awareness of reality is vital to get beyond the thinking that created the problem.’ This is the fresh, yet ancient, logic now required for the tumultuous challenges staring us down – it draws on the deep wisdom of nature. Ultimately, this is about evolution or extinction, anything else is mere distraction.
To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here
View a short video clip on business inspired by nature here
View a presentation on ‘A Radical Review of Reality’ here
Giles Hutchins explores a dynamic way of seeing in business and beyond, in reviewing the book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, authors: Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson.
Publisher: Floris Books, UK, 2014. ISBN 9781782500612 find here on Amazon
Much has been written recently about the increasingly desperate need for radical approaches to business, leadership, social change, politics and economics. We have Einstein’s words ringing in our ears in recognising that we cannot face today’s problems with the same thinking that created them. This much is certain. And yet when it comes to radically overhauling our way of attending, relating, engaging and thinking in business and beyond, we all-to-often find ourselves falling short, restricted by ingrained habitual frames. To truly see ‘outside the box’ in a systemic way is most challenging and yet nothing less is now called for.
Holonomics unpacks what it practically means to think differently, and is radical in its approach in going to the root of our mechanistic worldview. The authors provide an enjoyable and eloquent transformative path for the reader to consciously harmonise rationalistic logic with intuitive, organic phenomenological logic. Structured in three easy to digest parts; Part One – The Dynamics of Seeing – explores the ‘what’ of thinking differently and the ‘how’ of embracing new ways of thinking; Part Two – The Dynamics of Nature – the insightful work of Goethe, Schad, Prigogine, Darwin, Margulis and others, on perceiving relationships within and across living systems is explored; Part Three – The Dynamics of Business – provides inspiring examples of applied ‘holonomic’ thinking for leadership and organisational management.
The challenge now facing many us is how to encourage those in business and beyond to embrace an ecological perspective where intrinsic and extrinsic dimensions of complex systems are understood. The authors discuss ‘authentic wholes’ where the unfolding emergence of living systems is both intuited and rationally understood; with this conscious awareness comes a transformation beyond the mechanistic mentality whereupon we empathically inter-relate as well as rationally abstract. This radically alters how we attend to reality enabling us to transcend the illusion of separation created by Cartesian rationalism. It not just alters our intellectual understanding of sustainable business issues but also unlocks an inherent wisdom flowing throughout Nature. And so we find, through the techniques and practical suggestions provided throughout Holonomics, that we can shift into being inspired by AND becoming in harmony with Nature – radical sustainability.
The authors are keen to point out the benefits to business in understanding this shift: creativity, innovation, collaboration, problem solving, resilience, sense of purpose, improved morale; all high priorities for forward-thinking organisations wishing to thrive in the volatile years ahead. And they note that there is no more successful business consultant than Nature – having myself worked as a management consultant advising a great variety of organisations for many years, I could not agree more. Biomimicry, for instance, is increasingly being taken up in business strategy and operations, yet what is often so vitally overlooked is a ‘holonomic’ approach of understanding and applying Nature’s wisdom. In our rush to solve todays problems we rarely challenge the thinking that created them, and so we copy Nature’s forms and patterns in an all too analytic and atomistic way missing the deeper wisdom Nature affords us – the recognition that organisations are living systems, both physical and psychical, best understood through the intuitive and rational logic of our heads, hearts and hands.
In facilitating our ability to perceive beyond the limitations of our prevalent paradigm, Holonomics provides the fertile soil from which right thought and deed take root, ensuring our sustainability solutions are freed from the narrow-mindedness that created the problems in the first place. To this end, Holonomics asks us to question all aspects of our personal and collective habituations. If we are honest with ourselves, how often do we have moments of unadulterated ‘presencing’ where we authentically relate with each other and the world around us, unencumbered by preconceptions? How often do we truly love the interrelating moment beyond expectation of what our individualistic ‘self’ can exploit? Clearly, these questions are profoundly relevant. What Holonomics skilfully achieves is applying the rich philosophies of phenomenology and holistic science to our daily business endeavours and for that reason it is ground-breaking and an important book for those seeking to shift organisational consciousness.
Here is a short video of co-author of Holonomics Simon Robinson talking with Satish Kumar who kindly wrote a foreword for the book
For more on the new paradigm and new thought in business and beyond you can join the face book community here
This is a guest blog by Mark Spokes of Ākāśa Innovation
I have three words to share with one person. They might not be what you are expecting. However, they carry a message that speaks to us all. These words remind me that hope springs eternal with each new generation of young people. They reassure me of the possibilities of creating a beautiful world full of flourishing life if we just give young people every opportunity to thrive. I believe that you will want to share these three words too.
Samia Khoury inspired me and called me to action with these words. She is one of the many Palestinians I have met over recent weeks who never give up hope, even in the most hopeless of situations. In her book, “Reflections from Palestine: A Journey of Hope – a Memoir,” Samia describes her life’s work to bring justice for her people. Now at the age of 80, she expresses some concern for the future as both a mother and a grandmother, but she continues to find hope in young people joining the cause.
Young people give hope to some of our most influential elders. The UN Ambassador for Peace and the famous primatologist, Dame Jane Goodall – another 80-year-old – recently voiced her fears about the global environment, but said that young people are giving her hope: “It almost seems that young people are different. They are rising to the challenges that lie ahead of them because of our mistakes.” In her book, “Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey,” she praised the “powerful force unleashed when young people resolve to make a change.”
Our best hope for the future lies with the next generation of young people. But we must share with them the wisdom of our elders. If we learn best from experience, then young people should hear from those who have more direct experience of the consequences of their actions over decades. Amartya Sen, the Nobel Economics Laureate and another 80-year old, recounts an old Bengali saying: “Knowledge is a very special commodity: the more you give away, the more you have left.” Many of our elders recognise that education not only prepares the leaders of tomorrow for the global crises they are inheriting, but also cultivates their own hopes that peace in the world is possible.
Education becomes more important with an awareness of the cycles of life and death. “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever,” wrote the cosmologist Carl Sagan, who would have been 80 this year. Some of our elders, who are reflecting on their twilight years, have perhaps come to understand the significance of another of Sagan’s pearls of wisdom: “To live in the hearts we leave behind is to live forever.” This knowledge of the meaning of the human experience must now inform how we help each new generation of young people learn to see the world anew. In his classic book, “The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space,” Sagan wrote: “The visions we offer our children shape the future. It matters what those visions are. Often they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Dreams are maps.”
I am lucky to be working with Greta Rossi, the founder of Ākāśa Innovation. She has used her experience as a youth leader in human rights to now work in empowering other young people to follow their dreams of shaping a better future. Her commitment is the soul of the new Ākāśa Young Pioneers Programme, which is designed to prepare, inspire and empower young people to become sustainability leaders and help them make a brighter world. The twelve-week course that begins this autumn will be an exciting and transformational experience for twelve promising young people unable to afford or access expensive university courses and unpaid internships. Passionate and talented young people like Olivia and Michela have already joined Greta to work throughout the Ākāśa (50) Days of Summer towards raising funds to provide scholarships for each of our Young Pioneers.
I also feel fortunate to be working alongside Dr. Mike Edwards. He is one of the most talented educators that I have come across and will be guiding the Young Pioneers in developing the mindsets and skillsets they need to change the way we do business. Mike is also an adviser on climate change strategy to The Elders, a group of global leaders established by Nelson Mandela, who are passing on their knowledge to prepare the “youngers” to become the leaders we need now and in the future. Among these Elders, the former US President, Nobel Peace Laureate and another 80-year-old, Jimmy Carter, has been prominent in encouraging young people to become active ahead of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris: “Young people will inherit our planet, our successes and our failures. As Elders, we urge them not to underestimate their power, influence and responsibility to address the biggest challenge of our time.”
To find the wisdom to pass on to coming generations, we probably need look no further than our most enlightened 80-year-old – the Dalai Lama. In the recent documentary film, “Road to Peace”, the Dalai Lama spoke directly to young people: “Now you are the real human generation who will make a new shape of this planet.” His wish is for the next generation of leaders to prepare themselves with an education that builds the skills and expertise needed for life in this century, combined with the sources of inner strength that come from the likes of determination, truthfulness, honesty, warm-heartedness, and compassion. The Ākāśa Young Pioneers Programme is one answer to that wish. Twelve young people build skillsets and mindsets throughout the twelve-week course. This prepares them for a unique work placement that brings them together as an innovation team working to help make another not-for-profit organisation flourish.
The Ākāśa Young Pioneers Programme is being launched to realise our hopes of young people; it is led by young people with hope for a better world; and it provides a space for young people to experience hope and realise their potential to inspire in others a hope for the future. The wisdom and experience of our elders is drawn upon to prepare, inspire and empower our Young Pioneers. In doing so, the sweeping grand narratives that currently dominate the field of sustainability are replaced with an enduring soul found in the meaningful connections we find in each other, within ourselves and with the planet.
The talented and passionate young people that I have met through Ākāśa Innovation fill me with hope. I now realise how important it is to return this hope and promise back to our elders within the simple three words that bring Samia such joy. And that is why I know the importance of the three words that fill Samia with hope. “As long as there is life there is hope,” she declared. “I continue to have hope as long as there are [active young people] in this world – and as long as there are children who come and say, ‘Good morning Grandma,’ there is reason to hope.” At the end of the first week of the Ākāśa Young Pioneers Programme in autumn, I will be travelling home for my Nanna’s 80th birthday. I will wake up on Sunday and go downstairs, where she will no doubt be ready with breakfast and say, “Good morning Nanna.” I will thank her for all of the love she has given her four grandchildren and promise to pass this on so that we can hope for a better world for coming generations. It will be Grandparents Day in the UK, so why not plan a visit, a phone call, or a brief moment to remember someone and share hope together. Hope dies last if we recall a Kenyan proverb: “The world was not given to you by your parents; it was lent to you by your children.”
Chief Flourishing Officer